King Hermes finishes 11th in July Cup at Newmarket
On Saturday, July 9, following two bids at Ascot last month that yielded a fourth and 19th-place, Japanese horsemen returned to England to take on the July Cup over the Newmarket straight course.
King Hermes, a 3-year-old Lord Kanaloa colt, failed, unfortunately, to rule the day and bring Japan its second win of the race. Despite a solid, honest effort, the Ritto-based King Hermes beat only two horses across the finish line amid 13 runners.
A Grade 1 turf event over 6 furlongs, the July Cup went to local filly Alcohol Free, a gutsy No Nay Never 4-year-old fielded by Andrew Balding and ridden by Rob Hornby. The Dubawi-sired Naval Crown, Charlie Appleby’s Platinum Jubilee Stakes winner at Ascot less than a month ago, was second a length and a half later under James Doyle, with Artorious, piloted by Jamie Spencer, in third a half length behind Naval Crown. The race was run over good to firm turf, with a winning time of 1 minute 9.47 seconds.
Despite a less-than-perfect start, King Hermes did a good job tracking the leaders in the early stages, but lost steam and a chance at a placing from about 2 furlongs out.
“He was a bit slow out of the gate, but he recovered right away so that wasn’t the problem,” said Tokyo native Ryusei Sakai, who has ridden all of the colt’s five previous starts. “The early pace was slower than races in Japan and he was able to get into position on his own.
“Things got very difficult for him about 400 meters out, but he continued to try hard,” the 25-year-old Sakai said in praise of the colt’s effort. “He was fresh but the style of the race is different from Japan. I’ll study this race and hope I can use what I learn next time.” And with a nod to racing fans back in Japan, where the race got under way after midnight Sunday, Sakai added, “Despite the late hour, I’d like to thank all those who stayed up to cheer us on.”
Trainer Yoshito Yahagi, who also hails from Tokyo, first raced a horse overseas in 2008 and this year has already notched four major wins abroad, one in Riyadh and three in Dubai.
He’s known for winning big in Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Hong Kong and the U.S., but has yet to field a winner in Europe. From his three bids in England so far, his best has been an eighth-place finish. King Hermes was Yahagi’s third horse to England and his first runner in the July Cup.
Like the rider, Yahagi was at a loss to explain why King Hermes, a Grade 2 winner and sixth in this year’s Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup, powered out early in the race. “At this point, I don’t know what the reason for his loss was,” said the 61-year-old Yahagi.
“He lost momentum early on even though the pace wasn’t that fast. He didn’t lose for a lack of speed either, so I guess he needed to have more power. I’ll be analyzing how the race unfolded and planning how to make a comeback next time out.”
Yahagi’s Bathrat Leon, who won in Dubai earlier this year, accompanied King Hermes to England on a journey lasting some 45 hours. The two arrived in Newmarket on June 24 (local time). Bathrat Leon will take on the Sussex Stakes (G1, 1,600 meters) at Goodwood Racecourse on July 27.
Japan’s first flat race participation in an English race was in 1969, when Speed Symboli finished fifth in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot. Sirius Symboli’s attempt in the same in 1985 was followed by a 15-year dearth of Japan raiders. From the turn of the century, however, Japan-based horses have brought home two victories from 28 bids on British soil.